Think of Something Better, Not New
The most successful firms in the world didn't succeed from creating something new, they did it by focusing on making what already existed better. It is rare to invent something completely new. Most innovations are built off of something that already exists, but offers a better value proposition that what already existed. Focusing on making things better and not create the "new" will help you and you firm focus on a winning strategy.
Have you ever come up with a new business idea only to find out that somebody has already done it?
Odds are whatever "new" thing you think of, you'll find someone that has done it or is doing it. The key to doing something successful is to find a way to do it better.
Apple didn't invent digital music or the mp3; they found a better way to deliver digital music by creating a network of goods (the iPod, iTunes, and agreements with record labels to deliver digital music for $0.99 a song). Amazon found a better way to sell books to consumers using the internet as a platform to make it easier to find what you wanted and at a better price. Netflix found a better way to deliver video rentals to consumers through the mail rather than having to drive to your local blockbuster. Google created a better way to search the internet for relevant information, but they weren't the first to invent the search engine.
The three opportunities to build something better is to focus on making something:
3.) Better quality
You cannot successfully be all three. Focusing on one aspect of the three above in your value proposition yields the greatest success for most firms, otherwise you risk falling into the trap of trying to be everything to everyone. Amazon delivers books cheaper than your local bookstore. Netflix delivers movie rentals more conveniently, but not cheaper than going to a blockbuster store. Nike created a higher quality running shoe, but also a much more expensive shoe. FedEx offered faster delivery via overnight shipment, but not at a lower cost or through better means than UPS and other shipping services.
Very few inventors actually reap the financial rewards associated with them. For example, can you name the people or persons who invented the internet, T.V. or do you know how much money the Wright brothers received for being the first to fly? Henry Ford, didn't invent the automobile, but he found a better way to build them and as such profited immensely from his ability to do something better.
"Better" is your value proposition for your customers and the sole thing you should focus on when building a successful firm. If you want to sell books online, but afraid Amazon is too big to compete with, find things that Amazon doesn't do to fulfill your value proposition. What can you do better than Amazon? If you are Borders or Barnes & Noble, you can deliver a better in-store experience than Amazon. You also have the opportunity to see and interact with your customers in person, something that neither firm have successfully leveraged in their attempt to compete with Amazon and attract more customers to their stores. Rather than try to compete head to head with Amazon by offering digital books, their primary focus should be on delivering something better than Amazon.
Business is not about doing something new, it's about doing something different and better.
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